Saturday, April 26, 2008

welcome to my neighborhood

There are a lot of things I like about the neighborhood where we live. It is quiet, for one thing, and that's important. We live far enough away from the university that there is not much student housing near us. We hear the occasional loud music from a weekend party, sure, but not more often then in any other neighborhood. There are only a couple of families with children on our street, so there are no yelling kids riding endlessly up and down the street on their big wheels/bicycles/skateboards.

Our neigbors keep to themselves and mind their own business - for the most part, anyway. We do have the nosy old lady who lives across the street, but what neighborhood doesn't? And, after all, she was the one who took Bobo in the one and only day he wandered off. Ben found him fenced in her backyard, and he says that he and Bobo looked at each other like, "What are you doing here?" I try to think of her as the neighborhood watch.

As Rufus and I take our daily walks this spring, I enjoy the flowering plants and shrubs that bloom in each yard we pass. I have realized that there is something else I really appreciate about this quiet, middle-class neighborhood. People in this neighborhood have violets in their lawns. That is enough for me, in and of itself, because I love violets, and always have.

As lovely as the violets are, however, their presence serves as an indicator of something that is even more important to me about our neighborhood. It is the fact that although people perhaps don't encourage violets to grow in their lawns the way I do, they certainly allow them to stay. What I mean to say is, for the most part, we don't have "perfect" lawns here. Oh sure, there are lawns that are chemically treated and posted with signs warning you to keep your children and pets and any other living thing you care about off them, but they are the exception. In our neighborhood, violets and spring beauties and - sad to say - dandelions grow in our lawns, and that suits me just fine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Norwegian wool

(Okay, Ben was the first to use the title for this post, but, come on, it's a natural.)

I got two skeins of beautiful red yarn in the mail yesterday from Bergen, Norway. I received them in exchange for a skein of yarn I sent to a knitter whom I "met" on Ravelry. Ravelry is a community of knitters and crocheters from all over the world who share patterns and tips and ideas. I would need to devote a whole post to rave about how much I love Ravelry - and maybe I will. (You can find a link at:

Are you surprised that I would be interested in something like this? Don't be - I am coming out of the closet with my latest obsession, knitting. Maybe you think "obsession" is too strong a word for it. Trust me, it's not. I feel like Hermey (that's what IMDb says his name is) in the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" television special: "Molars and bicuspids! You've no idea!" How does one explain something like that without sounding, well, a little crazy, a little - obsessed?

I have always had enthusiasms, I would say. Some of you may remember all the way back to my button collection (since passed on to Julie.) I think I got in pretty much on the ground floor with my toaster collection. If we even see toasters as nice as the ones I have, they cost way more than I would pay for them. Then there was the postcard-collecting phase. How exciting it was to drive to a postcard show in Wooster or Columbus and find fifteen or twenty postcards we had never seen before! We would probably still be in that phase, actually, if there were any Elyria postcards left that we don't already have.

With knitting, however, I have finally found the creative outlet I have lacked for years. I am absolutely fascinated by the idea that if you gave ten different knitters the same yarn, they would come up with ten different and unique projects. I am thrilled by the potential of new yarn. With each project that I work on, I feel like I am uncovering a new treasure - how will this look when I add a new color? I am absurdly proud of my finished objects and want to show them off to everyone. (If you want to, you can see them at my Flickr account at:

See what I mean? I just can't help it. I think this one is going to last.

Monday, April 21, 2008

it's a bloomin' miracle

Granted it's not the Tidal Basin, but the cherry blossoms on the trees that line our street are incredible this year. In fact every blooming thing looks incredible, especially compared to last year. The freezing rain that fell the first week in April last year as we left for Chicago wiped out the blossoms on just about every flowering tree and shrub in the area. I guess we were fortunate the plants themselves didn't die. It didn't feel fortunate, though.

This year it looks like the redbud and the wisteria - my favorites - will have a banner year. The lilac has more buds on it that it ever has before, and the forsythia outside my window gives my whole room a golden glow when the morning sun shines on it. The azaleas are blooming beautifully, nothing like the shrivelled black buds of last year. This has been the best year ever for our daffodils, and the tulips look promising, as well. Did I mention that I love spring?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

spring cleaning, of a sort

My shoulders hurt most of all, and my arms ache when I lie in bed at night. I haven't hurt my lower back yet, however, and I think that must be because of the weight I lost. All this is by way of saying that spring has finally arrived in northeast Ohio, and I have been out working in the yard. The amount of work that needs to be done each spring can be overwhelming if one thinks about it too much, so each day I just go out and work on what bothers me the most.

Tuesday I raked our fenced-in back yard, and cleared the leaves from a couple of the flower beds. We have been cleaning up after the dogs on a daily basis, so I didn't have to do the massive poop pick-up we have done in past years. I dragged the patio furniture out into the yard and hosed it off. Then I got the cushions and rug from the shed. Voila! Our patio is ready for use.

Yesterday I raked in the front for a while, but only got half of the lawn finished. Each year it seems like more branches and sticks have fallen from the surrounding trees than in previous years, and this year is no exception. Today is a bright, sunny morning, and I am optimistic that I will at least get the rest of the front finished. I know rainy weather is in the forecast, and I would like to have the lawn freshly-raked when it arrives. I am counting on those April showers to green up the sad, yellow grass.

This is the first spring in many that I have been home and able to work outside when the weather beckons me, and it is a wonderful experience - even when my shoulders hurt.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Today is the first anniversary of Tom and Kristy's wedding. They got married a year ago today in Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park, in a memorable and unique ceremony. It's hard to believe a year has gone by already, but it's true.

So Happy Anniversary, my dears. I love you both very much.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

is a puzzle-ment

On Saturday we decided to take a drive south on Rt. 43. We stopped at Helen's Kitchen in Hartville for lunch, then headed further south to the aptly named "Rt. 43 Antique Mall". We don't go there very often because there really isn't much of a turnover in merchandise, but I find that what we see there changes from time to time. I guess we look with different eyes.

A couple of years ago, Ben found an old plastic glow-in-the-dark Christmas tree ornament like the ones he remembers from his childhood. Over the years I have often seen Brownie box cameras like the one we had when I was a kid, but when we were there last fall, I found a complete set still in the box, like the one that sat on our bay window seat for so many years. It was hard for me to leave it behind.

This time it was old jigsaw puzzles that caught my eye. I mean really old. I would guess from the 1940's. I was mesmerized by them. I have always loved working jigsaw puzzles. I can well remember two puzzles from my earliest childhood. Each puzzle probably had about ten thin, cardboard pieces. One was a baby carriage in pastel colors that didn't really hold my interest - it didn't even have a baby in it. The other one, however, utterly fascinated me. It was a fishbowl with two orange goldfish in it. There was a gray castle with a wavy green piece of seaweed next to it. I worked that puzzle hundreds of times. I knew how it tasted. (Although I had to be careful not to warp the pieces when I licked them.)

I can also remember a couple of Zorro puzzles, based on the T.V. series, and I know that we got a Sleeping Beauty puzzle not long after the Disney movie came out. My brothers were never the avid puzzle workers that I was, and often wanted to help after the hard work of sorting out the border pieces was done. I didn't like that.

I was still a child when I was allowed to work some of the easier puzzles my parents had. (I hesitate to say "adult puzzles.") I loved the one with the blooming trees and the duck pond in the foreground, and the winter scene in shades of blue, with children skating on a frozen pond. I liked interlocking puzzles best - I still do - but I also loved the oldest puzzle with the thick, thick pieces that didn't interlock at all. It was an old Tuco puzzle; an old farmhouse with a garish purple and orange sunset in the background. It is in my attic now, along with dozens of others.

I think jigsaw puzzles contributed to my life-long love of art. Most of the puzzles we had were based on paintings, some of them well-known. I pored over their vivid colors and visible brush strokes. I remember particularly a Dutch windmill and a Utrillo street scene. Later we had a Norman Rockwell, a Klimt garden, and American Gothic by Grant Wood. Those are all in the attic, as well. Julie and I bought a jigsaw puzzle just this past Christmas season. It is a painting of skaters on the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, with the huge Christmas tree in front of the towering skyscraper.

Of course I bought a couple of old puzzles on Saturday. I haven't worked them yet, and there is always the danger that one - or more - of the pieces will be missing from an opened puzzle box, but it seemed worth the risk. Maybe I'll spread one out on the card table tonight and start sorting out the border pieces. There are worse ways to spend an evening at home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

signs of spring

The first flowers of spring are not like the showy displays of mid-summer. One has to know where to look to see them. In sunny corners, bunches of snowdrops spring up from under mats of last year's brown leaves, their snowy-white heads drooping shyly. Crocuses, those true harbingers of spring, appear suddenly in fallow beds or in the midst of slowly-greening lawns. Their bright yellow and purple and white flowers are the very colors of spring.

We have seen robins in the yard, and are delighted to hear their familiar song both mornings and evenings. The goldfinches on our feeder seem to have changed the color of their feathers overnight from dirty brown to a brilliant yellow. The male birds fight in ascending spirals with a great deal of flapping and chirping before flying off in opposite directions.

The Tribe won the home opener, and there wasn't even a hint of snow on the ground or in the forecast. This year for sure, eh? Spring has finally come to northeast Ohio, and it is more than welcome.